Second birth

I hope I have not allowed it to be inferred that the developments I have mentioned are a mere epitome of the occurrences of a single year. On the contrary they represent a crescendo of change which began in or around 1911 and continued for a long time – continued in some respects indeed right up to the year of the Great War.

Registration is now open for the Second Birth of Cinema conference. The conference is taking place at Percy Building, Newcastle University, UK, 1-2 July 2011, and takes as its somewhat contentious theme the idea that cinema really only got its act together in 1911, so that we should be celebrating its centenary now, and all of those who got the bunting out in 1895 were jumping the gun. The thesis is argued thus:

This conference commemorates cinema’s ‘second birth’, the historical developments and departures that broke film’s subordination to other media to give us the medium, the industry and the building that we know as ‘the cinema’.

If, as André Gaudreault and Philippe Marion have recently insisted, cinema was born once as a technology and then again as a medium, just when and how did this occur? What caused film practice, the film business and film discourse all to generate a media identity for cinema? How did we get from ‘animated photography’ to ‘the pictures’?

Interesting questions, and silent filmmmaker Cecil Hepworth, quoted at the top of this post and used by the conference as an epigraph, clearly thought there was something in it. So do quite a few other people now, because they have a handsome list of topics as the subject of some of the papers now accepted:

  • Film Architecture in Southern California, 1909-1915
  • The Victorian Novel and Early Narrative Film
  • The Second Birth of Cinema in Belgium, 1904-1913
  • The Reinvention of Colour in the Single-Reel Era
  • Animated Films and Negotiated Intermediality
  • The Second Birth of Cinema in Quebec, 1906-1916
  • Measuring the ‘Double Birth’ Model Against the Digital Age
  • The Lightning Cartoon Film
  • André Bazin’s Second Birth of Cinema
  • The Emergence of By-Programme Genres in Germany
  • The Serial and the Institutionalization of the Film Industry
  • The Local Picture Show and the Second Birth in Canada
  • The British Film Industry’s Transition from the Local to the National
  • The Futurists’ New Era of Cinema
  • The Emergence of Film Celebrity in Britain
  • The Newsreel and the Variety Format
  • The Autorenfilm Movement and Cinema’s Second Birth in Germany
  • The Production Crisis and the Formation of the British Film Industry

Keynote speakers are André Gaudreault (Université de Montréal),
Philippe Marion (Université catholique du Louvain), Ian Christie (Birkbeck College) and Joe Kember (Exeter University). The conference website has details of bookings, travel and accommodation.

Is the new film history or the old film history with a slightly different hat? I’ll guess you’ll have to attend to find out. Or wait til someone decides that 1915/2015 will be the third birth of cinema. And so on.

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